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The Lies We Tell

The Lies We Tell


NOTE: This story is part of a series. For the recommended reading order, see Beryl's Storyline.


     "Hello, Astria. We need to talk."

     Astria whirled around to face Beryl, who was sitting in the large, overstuffed chair in her sister’s bedchamber. There were still signs of sleep in Astria's eyes, and, as she spun round, her pillow-matted auburn hair flew out in several different directions.

     Seeing her sister like that had an odd effect on Beryl. She could not remember the last time she had seen Astria in anything less than a perfectly-composed state. Unkempt and startled, she looked vulnerable. She looked human.

     The Court Sorceress put her hand over her heart and fixed her sister with an angry look.

     “Gods!” she said, her chest rising and falling beneath her silk nightgown as she fought to bring her breathing under control. “Are you trying to kill me?”

     Beryl sat stone still. Through her one green eye, she peered at her sister across the heavy darkness of the room.

     “That’s an unfortunate choice of words,” she said.

     “Fine,” Astria said. “Be that way.” She sat down on the velvet-upholstered bench at the foot of her bed. “What’s so important that it couldn’t wait until the morning?”

     “This,” Beryl said.

     The scarred woman reached into her pocket, where her fingers closed around a heavy gold signet ring, property of a lesser matriarch of Great House Dentevi.

     Or at least it had been until an hour or so ago, when Beryl had removed it from the dead matriarch’s finger.

     Beryl tossed the ring to her sister, whose sleepy hands bobbled it before catching it.

     Astria looked down at the ring in her hand. As she did, her eyes went wide, and all traces of sleep vanished from her face. Her mouth fell slightly open, and she looked up at Beryl.

     “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” she said.

     “Do I know what I’ve done?” Beryl repeated, incredulous. “I killed a Dentevi matriarch tonight. I killed her, and I killed four more Dentevis to boot. They’re lying in the street where I left them. Their bodies are probably still smoking. So, yes, I know exactly what I’ve done.” Her voice shook as she spoke. She leaned slightly forward in the chair and levelled a finger at her older sister. “And don’t you dare flatter yourself into thinking that I did it for you. Because this isn’t about you and me anymore. This is bigger than us; your salvation was just collateral damage.”

     Beryl stood up and walked over to where her sister was sitting. Astria’s face was frozen in a kind of stunned look – her pupils were wide, and her mouth hung slightly open. Beryl wondered just how long it had been since anyone had dared to speak back to her sister. It seemed to her almost as though Astria had lost the ability to process hard truths.

     “But enough about what I’ve done,” Beryl said. “Let’s talk about you for a second.” She leaned in close to Astria’s face, so that their eyes were level. “Have you ever killed anyone, Astria? And I don’t mean, have you ever had anyone killed, because I know the answer to that. No, what I want to know is: Have you ever looked someone right in the eyes – just like I’m looking at you, now – before you burned the life out of them? Have you ever smelled the smell of their melting skin as you watched them die? Do you have any idea what that feels like?”

     Astria was silent. She stared back at her sister. Then, slowly, she looked down at her hands, averting her eyes.

     Beryl shook her head.

     “I didn’t think so,” she said. “So let me tell you how it makes me feel. It makes me feel like I’m dying inside, like I’m killing a little part of myself, too. And, if I keep it up, I won’t have any soul left. I’ll be nothing but scar – hardened, and rough, without feeling. And it will change me. It will turn me into one of those people who try to tell myself that it’s okay to kill. Or, Gods forbid, it will turn me into you.”

     Beryl was quiet for a moment. Then she stood upright again. Turning away from her sister, she said:

     “Which is why I’m through with you, Astria. I’m through with the lies, and the deception, and the killing. I can’t deal with them. Not anymore. Whatever I was trying to change between us, whatever kind of relationship I was deluding myself into thinking we might have? It’s not worth it. I have been your guardian angel of late, but I will not be your assassin. I’m walking away with what little of my soul I still have intact. I don’t even care about my name anymore. You’re welcome to it. No name’s worth my soul, either. Not even our mother’s.”

     Beryl turned back around to look at her sister. Astria was propping herself up with both arms and leaning slightly backwards, as though recoiling from a blow. She looked more stunned than angry.

     Beryl sighed. Imagining this conversation in her head, she had expected to feel some sort of relief, or release, even. But what she felt instead was sadness. Sadness at the death of a dream which she had held on to for so long, in spite of such long odds, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

     The dream was an illusion, she knew. Always had been. She had to let it go. But it still hurt to do so.

     “Goodbye, Astria,” she said. “I hope you’re happy with the life you've chosen.”

     Something about the finality of Beryl’s words seemed to snap Astria back to the present. Color started to return to the Court Sorceress’s face, and her mouth drew tight into a scowl.

     “You can’t just leave,” she said. She threw the signet ring back at Beryl, hard, so that Beryl’s fingers smarted as she caught it. “You can't just do this to me and then walk away. Do you realize the position you’ve put me in? The Dentevis will come for my scalp.”

     Beryl shook her head.

     “Not if they’re smart, they won’t. I made it very clear what will happen to them if they do. And, after tonight, I suspect they will believe me. For what it will cost them to get you? You’re not worth it, Astria.”

     Anger flashed across Astria’s face. Beryl could see twin sparks starting to smolder in the black centers of her sister’s eyes.

     Beryl knew that, not too long ago, that ominous portent would have frightened her. It would have cowed her into submission.

     But not anymore.

     Astria was opening her mouth to speak, but Beryl cut her off.

     “Even if the Dentevis are dumb enough to start a blood feud,” she said, “it won’t be with you. I’m the one who’s been killing them off – I made that very clear to them, too. If they come after someone, it will be me. And I’m not related to you, am I? I’m not a Trevanei. You saw to that. I’m just a Nameless troublemaker. You’re not responsible for me.” Beryl’s eye narrowed. “And don’t think I don’t know that’s why you will never give me my name back. It’s not really about what I did to our mother – or, at least, it hasn’t been about that for a long time now. No, it’s all about you, Astria. Just like everything else, it’s all about you. I’m just too useful to you the way I am, the way you made me.”

     Beryl walked past her sister and made for the chamber’s enchanted door.

     “Well, as of today, I’m giving you what you always wanted,” she said. “We’re strangers now.”

     “Oh, how noble of you!” Astria called out after her. Her voice rose as she spoke, and Beryl could hear a kind of incredulous frustration straining against the false civility of her words. “It's that time already, is it? Time for your tactical retreat back into martyrdom, into that comfortable, piteous sanctuary from whence you always disclaim responsibility for the fires you start? Is that what happens now? You’re going to vanish off to some other world, and leave me behind to clean up your mess?”

     “No,” Beryl said, fighting to keep her own voice level. “I’m going back to my shop, at least for now. What I said about stopping the Dentevis? I meant it. I’m not going to stand by and let them drown this world in blood for their own purposes, whatever those purposes may be. And the same goes for you. Whatever game you’re playing? It has to stop. Because, from now on, if you get yourself into trouble, I won’t be coming to your rescue.”

     Beryl stopped in front of Astria’s door and traced her finger across the House Trevanei seal. The black marble door slid open, its movement silent and smooth.

     “You’re making a mistake,” Astria said, and Beryl thought she could detect a trace of fear beneath her sister’s voice.

     “It wouldn’t be the first,” Beryl said. “But it’s one I can live with.”

     “Beryl, wait.”

     Beryl stopped in mid-stride. She had one foot out the door.

     “Did you ever manage to find Fisco Vane?” Astria asked.

     Astria was normally a very good actress. But, just then, Beryl thought that Astria had been trying a little too hard to sound disinterested, to act as though she hadn’t been dying to ask precisely that question the whole time they had been talking.

     Beryl turned around to face Astria, and the change in her sister's demeanor was startling. Moments earlier, Astria's anger had been looming like a summer storm. Now she was a picture of forced composure - her face a studied blank, her breathing calm. She held one hand behind her back, while the other pulled idly on a strand of her long hair, wrapping it around her fingers.

     The transformation was as complete as it was abrupt, and it sent a small chill down Beryl's spine.

     Beryl was silent for a moment while she tried to decide how much of her encounter with the Shark she ought to reveal to her sister. Given the circumstances, she concluded that less was more.

     “I did,” she said.

     “Did you find out about his arrangement with the Dentevis?”

     “Yes, I did.”

     This time it was Astria’s turn to be silent for a moment. Beryl waited quietly while her sister came to her own decision about how much to admit to knowing.

     “Did you find out what he was going to sell to them?” Astria eventually asked. Beryl could see that her sister was biting her lip.

     “The slave collars? Yes, I did,” Beryl said.

     “And did the Dentevis get them?”

     “No, they didn’t,” Beryl said.

     “And I suppose I have you to thank for that?”

     “Yes, you do.”

     “What happened to them?” Astria asked. As she did, she seemed to shift her weight forward ever so slightly, and Beryl could hear a sort of poorly-concealed nervous excitement lurking just beneath her sister’s words. “The collars, I mean. Do you still have them?”

     Beryl shook her head. “No,” she said.

     Astria's fingers stopped playing with her hair. “Where are they?”

     “I destroyed them.”

     “That was a mistake,” Astria said, her tone sharply changed. The feigned disinterest had vanished in an instant, replaced by a familiar anger. Her eyes blazed; the storm had returned.

     Beryl felt an urge to lash out at her sister. To tell her about the vision she’d had when she had first touched the collar. To try to shame her, to try to hurt her.

     But she didn’t. Something held her back. It felt to her like the fragile remnant of her soul, fighting for survival.

     So she just said: “It was no mistake.” A tear formed in her one green eye as she said it.

     Then she walked out the door.

 

* * *

 

     The sun was just beginning to rise as Beryl picked her way through the narrow, uneven streets of the Nameless District towards her little shop. As she drew closer to the street where she had lived for years, she was surprised at how strange her return home seemed, how much smaller the world felt – how removed from her own past she felt.

     The sights, sounds, and even the smells of her old neighborhood were all intimately and instantly familiar. There were the leaning buildings with their moldy, clapboard shingles, casting long, crooked shadows across the street. There was the strange amalgamation of aromas – the breakfast smell of frying lard intermingling with the noxious smell of moldering refuse. There were the sounds of worn shoes scraping across worn cobblestones, of early morning quarrels brewing behind too-thin doors, of shop shutters being cranked open as the first customers stumbled out into the streets.

     All these sensations were familiar to her. But now they also felt foreign, as though she had become a visitor in her own home. It was as though she had been living in a cage without knowing it, and it was only now that she was viewing her home from the other side of the bars that she could see just how small it had been.

     When she finally reached the squat, windowless building which housed her store, she was dismayed but unsurprised to see that her sign had been taken down from above the door. Astria owned the property, after all, and she had declared Beryl dead some months back.

     Beryl was similarly dismayed but unsurprised to see that the store’s weathered wooden door was slightly ajar. Hers was a neighborhood in which property had a habit of going missing even if its owner was around, let alone if its owner had fallen through the cracks of the blind eternities and vanished without a trace.

     Ruefully, she wondered if anything at all would be left inside. She had some books she would be sad to lose, and the same could be said of her better apothecary’s tools. But her few irreplaceable possessions she had carried with her across the planes. Beyond those, she really owned very little which was worth stealing.

     Nevertheless, she was pleasantly surprised when she opened the door and stepped inside to find her shop seemingly just as she had left it.

     Her eye swept across the rows of rough, wooden shelves covered with glass phials of varying shapes and sizes, all filled up to their stoppers with tinctures and potions in a rainbow of colors. As far as she could tell, nothing had been touched, and nothing was missing.

     In fact, the one difference she spotted was something which had been added: On top of her shop counter, sitting just between her order book and her cash till, was a man’s red silk top hat.

     As her eye came to rest on the expensive-looking hat, Beryl felt her pulse quicken and her muscles tense.

     “Do excuse my manners,” said an unfamiliar voice which purred with a kind of sugary tremolo. The door to Beryl’s workroom swung open, and a man emerged from behind it. “I apologize for the manner of entry,” he said, smiling. “But I was curious if you might return here, and I wanted to be here when you did.”

     The man stepped towards the counter, where he picked up the top hat and placed it on his head, tilting it at a slightly rakish angle.

     Beryl regarded the man quietly, trying to decide whether or not he was a threat – and, if he was, just how much of a threat. At the periphery of her vision, she could see that her fingertips were starting to glow.

     The man just smiled at her. “Oh, I assure you, that won’t be necessary,” he said. “I’m just here to talk.”

     Beryl couldn’t quite recognize the man. But, looking at him, she got a strange sort of feeling in the pit of her stomach. He had one of those faces where, even if you had never seen it before, it felt familiar. He was clean-shaven, with curly, salt-and-pepper hair and red, chubby cheeks. Behind his full lips, his teeth were white and straight. He had a well-fed physique, with soft hands and square-cut nails. His clothes were expensive, and their ornate fashion – ruffled silk cravat, jeweled gold cufflinks, ostentatious diamond earring, finely-tailored waistcoat with silver piping around the seams – suggested a Court appointment of some sort.

     But what drew her attention most keenly were his eyes. They were an intense verdigris green, and – unnervingly – he didn’t seem to blink.

     “Okay,” Beryl said, stepping fully inside and pulling the door closed behind her with a muted click. “You wanted to talk? Well, you have my attention, so let’s talk.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest, still looking the man in the eyes. “How about you start by telling me your name?”

     The man smiled and swatted away the question with a wave of his hand. “My name isn’t important,” he said.

     Beryl arched an eyebrow. “That’s funny,” she said. “Most of my life, I’ve been led to believe that names are just about the most important things there are. Especially to people like you.”

     The man’s smile widened. He bowed slightly, looking up at her from just under the brim of his hat.

     “My apologies, my dear. I’m afraid I misquoted you slightly. I believe your exact words were: ‘Who I am isn’t important. The why I’m here part, that’s the important part.’ Personally, I thought that was an awfully clever line.”

     Beryl’s eye narrowed, and she suddenly felt an acute sense of danger. It was those unblinking eyes, gazing out from beneath the hat’s shadow, which worried her. Heat welled in her hands, but she also felt a cold chill creep across her skin at the base of her spine.

     “That’s funny,” she said. “I don’t remember you being in the audience.”

     “You’re thinking too narrowly,” the man said. He started drumming his fingers on her counter as he spoke. “There was one participant in those events who lived to tell about them – besides yourself, of course. You made quite an impression on her, by the way – figuratively and literally. As bad as the burns on her arm are, I think the psychic damage you did will prove to be much more substantial,” he said, feigned concern dripping from his words.

     Beryl took a long, deep breath. As she exhaled, she could taste something bitter in the back of her mouth.

     “And how would you know that?” she asked. Her voice had grown quieter, more wary.

     “Surely you can guess that much,” the man said, his tone shifting once more. “I seem to recall you gave that poor girl a message to deliver?” He stepped out from behind the counter, picked up a phial of red liquid from a nearby shelf, and started rolling it between his fingers. “Well, she delivered it. With great conviction, I might add.”

     Beryl frowned at the man. “You’re not a Dentevi,” she said.

     The man shook his head. He pursed his lips and regarded Beryl with an anticipatory gaze.

     As Beryl considered the man’s response, a look of realization slowly blossomed on her face, and she felt her jaw start to clench.

     “You’re the man behind House Dentevi. You’re the one pulling the strings.”

     “Now you’re catching on,” the man said, punching the air in a flourish of excitement. He gave a theatrical little bow. “Guilty as charged.”

     “Why?” Beryl said, taking a step towards the man. “Who are you?”

     “Just an interested party, my dear girl,” the man said. He tossed the glass phial up into the air, where it spun end-over-end twice before he caught it. “I’m an interested party whose interests just happen to line up with yours.”

     Beryl frowned. “Given that I just killed five of the people working for you, I confess I find that a little difficult to believe.”

     “You’re getting caught up in the details again,” the man said. He threw the phial into the air again, where it did three spins before he caught it. “I’m not angry with you. Something of the opposite, really: I’m impressed. That was a very neat piece of work. Think of it as your job interview, if you so choose.”

     Beryl’s mouth turned downward in disgust. “I’m not looking for work,” she said. “I’m not some kind of hired killer.”

     “And yet, remorsefully, you kill an awful lot of people, don’t you?” the man asked. The phial flew into the air again, making four spins. “But that’s beside the point. I already have people who kill people for me. Your skills are much more suited for other tasks. Really, I’m just trying to help you to be on the right side of the game here.”

     “And I’m supposed to trust you, why, exactly?”

     The man gave a little disarming shrug. “Well, I would hope that the fact that I’m here alone is something of a token of trust. As opposed to, say, maybe a hundred of House Dentevi’s finest converging on this block in something just a bit short of a talking mood.”

     Beryl straightened ever so slightly. “I’m not afraid of the Dentevis,” she said.

     “Clearly not!” the man said as the phial spun in the air five times. “Which is what has me believing that I put my initial wager down on the wrong people. That it’s not the Dentevis I ought to be counting on, but that I ought to try getting you on my side instead.” He pointed the phial of red liquid at her. “It’s not hard to see that you’re someone who can get things done. And getting things done is just my style.”

     The man smiled. It was a smile which Beryl thought seemed just slightly too wolfish for the disarming face which wore it.

     “You keep talking about all this like it’s some sort of game,” Beryl said. “Like real people aren’t getting killed.”

     “It is a game,” the man said, his voice suddenly grave. “It’s just that this happens to be a game where the stakes are high.”

     “And what do you want?” Beryl asked.

     “I want the same thing everyone who plays a game wants,” the man said, dead serious. He put the phial down on the counter. “I want to win.”

     Beryl walked over to the counter and picked up the phial. She carried it over to the shelf it had come from and put it back in its proper place, feeling the man’s strange eyes on her back as she did so. She took a long breath before she turned to face him again, meeting his gaze.

     “You still haven’t said what it is you want from me,” she said. “Or why I shouldn’t just throw you out right now, or worse.”

     “All I want from you,” the man said gently, “is for you to do what you already wanted to do anyway.”

     “What’s that?”

     “I want you to stop your sister from becoming the next High Sorceress,” the man said.

     The man moved to stand closer to Beryl, and again she got the sense that there was something strange about him. He looked so familiar, and yet there was a kind of palpable wrongness in his appearance and manner. She just couldn’t place what it was, and it unnerved her.

     “What makes you think I want to stop her?” Beryl said, her voice quieter.

     The man’s smile widened. He removed his hat and spun it idly between his hands as he spoke. “I don’t know which I find more interesting,” he said. “The lies we tell each other, or the lies we tell ourselves.” He nodded his head in Beryl’s direction. “If we can’t be honest about what you want, then let me ask you a different question: What does your sister want? I mean, what does she really want?”

     Beryl was quiet for a long moment. “Power,” she said. Then she shook her head. “No. Control.”

     The man nodded, as if acknowledging a bright student. “And you of all people know what she would do with that control.”

     Beryl was silent.

     The man put his hat back on. “You also know that Astria is a part of this game I keep talking about, that she’s in it up to her pretty little neck. She’s been scheming and conniving her whole life to rise to the top, and now she is close, oh-so-close.” The man held two fingers up in front of his face, just a hair’s width apart. “The current High Sorceress is not long for this world. There will be an election soon. And your sister has played her cards well. She is poised to ascend. My friends in House Dentevi were the one serious impediment to that, and you yourself removed that obstacle. You have done your sister quite the favor. A very large favor, indeed.”

     The man leaned forward.

     “Now here’s what you don’t know,” he said, his voice assuming a conspiratorial whisper. “Your sister thinks she’s a player. She isn’t, never has been. She’s just a pawn. She isn’t in control – she’s being controlled. There are greater powers at work here. And, once she ascends, those greater powers will use her. They will use her to do terrible things. Terrible things to you, and to people like you.”

     Beryl swallowed. It was difficult. Her throat felt dry.

     “Why should I believe you?” she asked, her voice a rasping whisper.

     “That’s the best part,” the man said. “You don’t have to believe me. You can just take your mother’s word for it instead.”

     That caught Beryl off-guard. She felt blood rush up to her face, felt the telltale pressure behind her eye which meant that the fire was waiting, was ready for her, if she wanted it. She could feel it in her fingers and in her heart, could feel the mana surging into her almost without her calling for it. She tried to hold it back, tried to just be aware of the hundreds of emotions which had surged up into her mind at the stranger’s ever-so-casual mention of her mother. She tried to keep her breathing steady, and to keep her voice level as she spoke.

     “What do you know about my mother?” she asked.

     “Quite a lot, actually,” the man said. “For example, I know that, before she died, she wrote you a letter. A letter addressed specifically to you, to be opened at your coming of age. A personal letter. A very, very important letter.” The man’s green eyes gleamed. “Tell me: You’ve come of age – did you get that letter?”

     Slowly, Beryl shook her head.

     “That’s unfortunate. It must have just slipped your sister’s mind.” He waved one hand breezily in the air. “An honest oversight, I’m sure.”

     “Astria has it?” Beryl’s voice was shaking in spite of her best attempts at focusing on awareness, and her breathing was fast and shallow.

     “She keeps it locked in that strongbox of hers,” the man said, his voice sly. “The one with the key which she wears around her neck and never, ever takes off.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Still, I’m sure that, if you asked her nicely, she’d let you have it. She is your sister, after all. She must know how important this is to you.”

     Beryl wasn’t sure whether to thank the strange man who stood there, grinning at her, or whether to attack him. She knew he was manipulating her – she had plenty of experience with being manipulated, and so she had some idea of what it felt like. The man wasn’t really trying to hide it, either. What she didn’t know was why he was doing it.

     What she did know was that she couldn’t keep having this conversation.

     “You need to leave,” she said. “Now.”

     The man held his hands out in front of him, in mock submission. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Clearly, you’re going to need some time to think. I’ll just see myself out, shall I?”

     He walked over to the door out to the street, which he opened with an unnecessary flourish. Then he turned back to face Beryl, and he smiled one last time. His grin was predatory without any attempt at pretense.

     “And I really do hope you’ll think about what I’ve told you,” he said. “But we’ll discuss that more the next time we meet. Until then, just know that I’ll be following your exploits with great interest.”

     He tipped his hat to her, those terrible eyes fixed on her all the while. Then he stepped outside, and the door closed behind him.

     Beryl’s head felt fuzzy as she walked around behind the shop counter, pulled a wooden chair over to where she was, and sat down on it.

     She didn’t trust the strange man. Not for a second. The things he had told her, about her mother, about the letter – they couldn’t be true. And, even if they were true, how could he have possibly known about them? For that matter, who could he possibly be?

     She had a seemingly endless series of questions, and no answers for them.

     She closed her eye.

     What if it was true? It wasn’t, obviously. But what if it was?

     Then she would have to read the letter. She would have to.

     She could ask Astria about it. If Astria really had the letter, she might be too shocked to deny it.

     Or she might lie. She might swear that she had no idea what Beryl was talking about.

     And then Beryl would be right back in the same bind she was in now. Surrounded by lies on all sides, and with no clue about who to trust, if anyone.

     Well, there was one other option. One which removed the lies from the equation.

     But that option made her responsible for the next breach of trust between her and her sister. And it was the sort of breach which, once committed, would be difficult to ever undo. Especially after what had passed between the two of them earlier that day.

     Beryl sat there on the wooden chair in her old shop, with her eye closed and her head in her hands, for at least a solid hour before she made up her mind.

 

* * *

 

     The strongbox was solid silver.

     It had been fashioned in the shape of a seven-pointed star, and its surface was covered with swirling runes painted in blue and gold enamel. It was about the size of a loaf of bread, or maybe just a little larger. It had a single, small keyhole in the center of its lid.

     And it was sitting on Astria’s dressing table about a foot away from where Beryl stood, staring down at it, and wondering what to do.

     Getting back into her sister’s chamber had been easy. Astria would be at Court all day, and her servants had learned to turn a blind eye to Beryl’s comings and goings – although whether they did so more out of fear of Astria or out of fear of her, Beryl wasn’t sure. And bypassing her sister’s magical traps and locks was trivial. After all, it was Beryl herself who had enchanted them.

     The strongbox, on the other hand, represented a different sort of challenge. Its lock was mechanical rather than magical. And, as the strange man had pointed out, there was only one key. And the key was, at present, where it always was: hanging around Astria’s neck.

     There was absolutely no question of getting the key. Not without physically attacking her sister, anyway, which Beryl would not do.

     Which left her staring down mutely at the locked strongbox, and wondering what she would do.

     She knew next to nothing about mechanical locks, so there was no question of trying to pick it. And, while she briefly entertained the notion of somehow forcing the lid, or smashing the box’s hinges, there would be no way to do that without risking harm to the contents inside – which could conceivably be anything.

     The box was magically trapped – Beryl could sense that much with ease. She also knew that she could disenchant Astria's traps with a token effort. But there were also many kinds of mechanical devices which could have been placed inside to stymie thieves, and Astria was precisely the sort of methodical, paranoid person who would have done so.

     So, finally, after what felt like an eternity of standing in place and staring down at the box with a kind of mute indecision, Beryl did the only thing she could think of to do.

     She slipped the locked box itself into her oiled leather pack and slipped out of her sister’s quarters as quickly and quietly as she could.

     As she half-walked, half-ran to put distance between herself and the Court, she could feel a cold sweat beading on her forehead and could taste bitter adrenaline at the back of her throat. The silver box’s heavy weight bounced up and down against her back with each hurried step. And, each time one of the star-shaped box’s points dug into her, she found herself wondering the same thing:

     Now what?

     She knew just enough to know that, before she could do anything else, she was going to need some help.


"The Lies We Tell" by OrcishLibrarian was originally published as part of the Expanded Multiverse project.

To learn more, and to read more Expanded Multiverse stories, please visit the Expanded Multiverse forum at No Goblins Allowed.


The Shifter is an original character created by Barinellos for the Expanded Multiverse.

Magic: Expanded Multiverse is not associated with Wizards of the Coast. This is a transformative work of fanfiction, protected in the United States under the laws of Fair Use. 

All works copyright their respective creators.


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